YORKTON TERRIERS (by Mike Stackhouse)
GOAL – The Terriers return 20-year-old Philippe Bond from last year’s team and highly touted 18-year-old rookie Jacob Herman is scheduled to split time with him. Herman played a regular season game and was also the back-up when the playoffs started last year. Bond had a 3.59-GAA, which was misleading considering he also posted a .913-SPCT and, routinely, dealt with 40+ shots a game.
DEFENSE – Ryan Granville and Tyson Janzen were in the top four last year and project to get a ton of ice this year although it will be interesting to see if the Terriers go with the five-forward powerplay like they did last year. Impressive rookie Ryan McCleary may end up in the WHL eventually, but he’ll start the season with the Terriers after putting up 23-points in 44-games for Swift Current AAA. 17-year-old Parker Jasper also figures to move up the ladder quickly after 29-points with Moose Jaw AAA last year.
FORWARDS – Twin brothers Keenan and Kaeden Taphorn return ⅔ of last year’s top line and it’s assumed Steven Norum will take Chantz Petruic’s spot in the middle. Norum auditioned there last year in Petruic’s absence late in the year and had success. In addition to being a year older, the Terriers will hope the likes of Brett Legrandeur, Carson Henry, Ryan Ries, Ethan Robson, and Colby Vranai are also a year better. A rookie to keep an eye on is Vaughn Watterodt, who may slide into a top six role despite being just 16-years-old. Watterodt had worked his way into regular playing time as a 15-year-old in last year’s playoff series against La Ronge.
ESTEVAN BRUINS (by Mike Stackhouse)
GOAL – For the third straight year, the Bruins have a new number one goalie. This time it’s Emerik Demers, a 19-year-old picked up from the Valleyfield Braves in Quebec where he was named the QJAAAHL Defensive Rookie Of The Year. The expected back-up will be rookie Eric Clark, who starred in British Columbia’s PJHL with the North Van Wolfpack.
DEFENSE – Six of the seven blueliners from last year’s roster are back, which should mean the position in great shape with Kade McMillen and Devan Harrison as the anchors. New head coach Jason Tatarnic has been impressed with the group, as a whole, and they’ll look to mix in 2004 born rookie Owen Simmons. Simmons, who’s from Kelowna, is a player Tatarnic has watched for a couple of years in BC and his family has relocated to Estevan.
FORWARDS – Two players who had a strong finish to last year are back to pace a strong group of returnees in Griffin Asham-Moroz and Eddie Gallagher. It’s also expected Cody Davis and Troy Hamilton will build on promising second halves to last year. 17-year-old Caelan Fitzpatrick was picked up in a trade with Battlefords prior to the draft and he should step right in after scoring 45-points in 44-games with his hometown Moose Jaw U18 club last year. Rookie Tanner Humber-Dredge, from Newfoundland, has had a strong Fall Camp as well. Brady Nicholas, who had 29-points last season, will give it a go in the WHL with Victoria.
MELVILLE MILLIONAIRES (by Mike Stackhouse)
GOAL – Last season’s backup Kaleb McEachern returns with an opportunity to come out from the shadows of last year’s Goaltender Of The Year, Berk Berkeliev. 18-year-old newcomer Alexis Giroux played 4 games in the QJAAAHL and looked very good. Another 18-year-old, Vaughn Holbeche, is also in the fold from the Lloydminster AAA program.
DEFENSE – The Mils return five players from last year, including Dylan Thackeray, who produced 16-points in 41-games after arriving in a midseason trade with La Ronge. Payton Jerome is a veteran of 112-games and should continue to eat valuable minutes. Wadena’s Brett Fogg, who played last year at AAA Swift Current will have a chance to showcase his puck moving skills while BC’s Aiden Robson put up good numbers with the PoE and saw action as an underage junior in the KIJHL last year. A nice story is that of Saskatoon’s Braden Deck, who AP’d with the Saskatoon Blazers AAA and appears to have made the Mils as an unlisted walk-on.
FORWARDS-The Mils return three very solid veterans in 22-goal man Luke Nkwama, team leading scorer Zach McIntyre, and underrated Jonathan Krahn. While other veterans have been added in trades, the future is the focus and to that end Dawson Springer, a 21-goal man with the Mintos, is one of a number of rookies to keep an eye on. Zach Cain is coming off a strong playoff with the Regina Pat C’s, and then there are a trio of 2003s that the organization is high on. Chase Bertholet is probably WHL bound at some point, but the Mils will be glad to welcome him aboard. Noah Wills put up 36-points in 43-games with Tisdale as a 16-year-old; and Kyle Bochek enjoyed a nice bump in production from his 15-year-old AAA year to the point where he looks to be a fixture with Melville despite being still eligible for his last year of AAA. 19-year-old Nic Porterfield is also still in the plans despite missing ⅔ of last season with a concussion. Porterfield is electric when he’s in the line-up as he had 14-goals in 18-games. He’s making steady progress in his recovery.
WEYBURN RED WINGS (by Mike Stackhouse)
GOAL-Even though the Red Wings didn’t win a lot of games last year, Joe Young was a star and perhaps was responsible for most of the success the team enjoyed. Four of his eight wins were via shutout and he posted a sparkling .924 SPCT. Rookie Rylan Labrie, the son of former SJHL coach Wayne Labrie, figures to be a very capable back-up.
DEFENSE-Jevon Schwean enters his 20-year-old year a veteran of 161-games in the SJHL. He’s not alone in the experience department despite the fact the Wings still project to be one of the younger teams in the league. Liam Antoniuk was picked up from Battlefords as part of the futures in last year’s Ben Hiltz trade. Graham Skinner played as an underaged junior last season, but should be on the receiving end of top four minutes this year. Colby Bechtold is a highly thought of recruit from Alberta but the big name to keep an eye on is American Nolan Cunningham, a tall and lanky sort from the USHS system and a potential all-star with a high level skill set and good vision.
FORWARDS-Braden Birnie is a local product who worked his way into a top line role and it’s hoped he will be better supported if the Wings expect to get into the win column more often. Dace Prymak scored 8 goals in 27 games after being picked up from the Stars midseason. Perhaps Elvis Gorontzy-Slack can help after 28-goals in 42-games with Grand Forks of the KIJHL. Another wildcard is Mathew Rathbone, who was ninth in league scoring with Edson (WSHL). That’s the same league Daylon Mannon played in a couple of years ago. Mannon was one of the top SJHLers with La Ronge last year. Other veterans in the mix for top six minutes include Liam Rutten, Dante Ballarin, and Shayde Peterson. Head coach Rich Pilon recognizes the team needs to have more of a physical presence but says the competition for prime minutes is healthy and gives the team plenty of options.